Having talked about the beginnings of this church, its springtime - I want to go on the next seasons: Summer - Harvest & Winter. I could have easily entitled it the growing season and the end of the growing season. Actually farmers are constantly harvesting throughout the summer - it is not just Fall that all is gathered in. A note about winter it is a season. Spring will once again come. It has its beauty - it is Gods time as well as any other. For farmers it is time to do maintenance and to get ready for the next planting. As Christians we should never disparage over winter - let God be God - He brings the sunshine and the rain. Nothing is too hard for him.
This church had tremendous growth over the years. One indicator would be the meeting places. At first they met in barns and homes. Dec 8, 1792 it was decided that a building should be erected about fifty rods east of Elias Stillwells dwelling - out in Parkis Mills at Mack Road. The meeting-house was to be 32 feet wide and 40 feet long. The outside was to be done first and the floor to be laid the next summer. It stayed in an unfinished state until 1794 when it was decided to sell the pews to finance the remaining construction.
In October 29, 1828 The present site was purchased (a move to the part of the village beginning to develop around the stage line. A building was erected and in 1845 they met to consider removing the old meeting house and erecting a new one. An interesting statement was made about this in Sylvesters History of Saratoga County, 1878 The present church edifice was erected about thirty years ago, on the same site as the old one. It is a plain, neat-looking structure, and cost about $2,000. Thus, this building was built in 1845.
There are some explainable reasons for growth. For instance - if Baptists are flooding into the area from New England - you would expect that Baptist churches would grow and multiply. How do you explain the concentration of Catholics around Boston a once staunchly Congregationalist enclave? Immigrants! The same could be said of the many Roman Catholics in our region - immigrants first to cities then to suburbs. I went to a Southern Baptist seminary for my graduate degree. The head of the home missions board of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke telling about the amazing church growth of a church he planted in Ohio. After he spoke a professor pointed out that in the same town a auto plant opened up and a lot of Southerners settled there for work. They were Southern Baptist - guess where they went to church - the new Southern Baptist Church plant. In some instances there are natural explanations for church growth, in others the only explanation is God.
In 1820 Revival swept Galway! In a book titled, The Life and Labours of Asahel Nettlton by Bennett Tyler, first published in 1854 the following was written.
Eight miles to the north-west, adjoining Milton, is the town of Galway. Here the work is overwhelming. In less than two months past, more than one hundred and fifty have been brought to rejoice in the hope. Dr. Nott, from this college [Union] visited them last Sabbath, and admitted ninety-five to the church; and the work is still progressing.
Now this is what happened at the Presbyterian church at the intersection of Galway, the site of the present day Methodist church. Im sure it was the talk of the town and was not just confined to that church.
In Sylvesters History of Saratoga County (1878) the following was written of that revival:
In 1820, at a time when the church was without a pastor, a remarkable revival of religion occurred. It originated among the school-children, who, from discussing some doctrine of the Bible, fell to studying the Scriptures, and interest grew until within the space of two months one hundred and fifty-two names were added to the church roll. Rev. Dr. Eliphalet Nott, of Union College, was at this time supplying the pulpit.
Another account of what happened in the village was by Rev Reuben S,. Smith. He was the minister of the Ballston Center Presbyterian Church. It starts out by identifying the village of Galway as East Galway. Why? It was to distinguish it from West Galway. Revival broke out there too at the present day First Presbyterian Church of West Galway , as well as in the West Charlton United Presbyterian Church, as well as Union College, Saratoga Springs, Milton, Tribes Hill, Nassau, Amsterdam, etc - it was a revival that blanketed the area and people in all these localities were experiencing a heaven sent revival.
AT EAST GALWAY. This place seems to have been next visited, and in a way to show another variety in the sovereign dispensations of grace. They were at time without a pastor, although a faithful licentiate preacher had been with them the preaching of autumn, who after the Revival, became their minister. In the Presbyterial Narrative, the church is described as greatly diminished in numbers, cold, stupid, and discouraged. Symptoms of a Revival first began to appear among them about the end of February. Its principal care and labors devolved, for a considerable time, upon the eldership. There appeared first, an unusual seriousness in one of the district schools. On the first sabbath in March, the president of Union College visited them, for the administration of the Lords supper. Seven were added to the church on that occasion; the ordinances were very impressive, and several, it was believed, were then awakened.
The week following, the solemnity was evidently increased, and onTuesday evening, at a conference, some twenty to thirty persons were so deeply impressed, as to be either unable, or entirely unable, or actually unwilling to leave their seats after the services were closed. Some stout-hearted young men were found wringing their hands in great agony, and asking, What must we dio to be saved? School rooms became too small for these conferences; the church was resorted to, and soon filled to overflowing. The faithful eldership redoubled their exercises. They visited all the families by districts, conversed with individuals, and attended numerous religious meetings. They also succeeded in securing the stated services, for a season, of the preacher before mentioned [Asahel Nettleton]; and it is remembered, and will long be remembered by this people, with what disinterested and affectionate zeal, he devoted himself to this work. For not less than seven or eight sabbaths in succession, he was with them, proclaiming the gospel of reconciliation, faithfully, plainly, and with great apparent effect.
Many whole families were hopefully converted to God, and in the course of a few weeks, more than two hundred and fifty, of every age were rejoicing in the hope. One hundred and sixty were added to the Presbyterian church; the Baptist and the Methodist churches were also enlarged. The special means were continued by the eldership for some time longer. They were then relieved, in some measure, by the settlement of a pastor. Bible classes, sabbath schools, and the catechetical instructions, were for a lomg time well sustained; and this congregation was distinguished for its liberality in the support of benevolent institutions.
Now when people think of Presbyterian church they often think of Scotch Church at the corner of Route 67 and Sacandaga Road. This Presbyterian church was originally called the First Associate Presbyterian Church of Galway, which was started on May 22, 1802. It merged with the Methodists in 1939, the building burned down in 1948. The present building is a carriage house with an addition. Saint Marys Roman Catholic Church now meets in the former Methodist meeting house. The Catholics originally meet in the building where Dr. Steven Carrozza practices dentistry - right next to the Fire House.
What was this revival like? It was a surprising work of God! When people talk about having revival meetings today they secure an evangelist and publicize it. They have week long meetings - because that is what used to happen during revivals. People could not get enough. They would linger. This is trying to produce what only God can truly give. Charles Finney came along promoting the idea that a revival could be produced by using the right means. His ideas have made a circus of the church. There is quite a difference between pre-Finney views about revival and post-Finney views that use him as a mentor.
When Nettleton preached - a holy hush would come upon the congregation. They became hungry for the Bible. They wanted to hear it. They didnt want the preaching to end. They were convicted of their sinfulness in light of a holy and righteous God. I have read some of Nettletons sermons. They are weighty and piercing. He was dead serious about the fact that we will all stand before God. Listen to how he begins his sermon (this is vintage Galway preaching 1820) - the sermon titled The Certain Destruction of All Who Do Not Seek Salvation Rightly it is upon the Bible Text:
For many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able (Luke 13:24).
The question was put: Lord are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the straight gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Here is an interesting question. A question about salvation. It leads to a useful though an alarming answer. To the question, Are there few that be saved? maknid have given different answers. It is a question above the reach of human reason. Whether few or many or any at all will finally be saved are questions that cannot be determined without a revelation fro God. Discarding the word of fallible mortals we (must depend upon) divine revelation. We appeal to our omniscient Saviour. Whatever men may say, the Son of God has declared, Many, I say to you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. What proportion of the whole race of Adam will finally be saved or lost, I cannot say, for I have not been told. But one thing is certain, Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
What an introduction - He has my attention!
Let me tell you some incidents of revival here in this church under other men.
JOHN HUMPSTONE - he was pulpit supply here in 1873 - the following comes from The Baptist Encyclopedia , by William Cathcart (1881):
John Humpstone was born in England. His father was a minister. The family came a settled around Philadelphia. John graduated from Lewisburg University in 1871, and before he finished his seminary studies at Crozer Theological Seminary he took time off to work filling the pulpit here in this church. Here is what was written:
Before his studies were completed he was compelled to leave school for a year, during which time he supplied the church in Galway, N.Y. A revival was the result, and 43 converts desired to be baptized by him, and for this reason a council was called and he was ordained in 1874.
He then went back to school graduated, had churches in Philadelphia, Albany, and Brooklyn. He often summered in Galway. The Mary Parish house on South Street was at one time owned by him.
It is unfortunate, but I do not know the history of all the pastors of this church. But I do know of one of its earliest pastors, Elder JOSEPH CORNELL. He served as pastor here twice, in 1794 -1799 and in 1813 -1822. In between those times he served as a home missionary in Western New York and Upper Canada. He was also a relative of Isaac Backus and preached at the famous Baptists church at the time Backus wife died.
EUGENIO KNCAID - Years ago a ministerial acquaintance gave me a book and said I think you need to have this. It was entitled, The Hero Missionary or A History of the Labors of Eugenio Kincaid. The book even has a picture of him as a dashing young man. Published in 1858, it is the story of one of the churchs early pastors. On pages 15-16 we read the following.
. . . he (Eugenio Kincaid) was induced to accept an invitation to the pastoralcharge of the Baptist church at Galway, N.Y. Here, in the midst of an attached people, it was his privilege for about three years to labor and to witness signal and most cheering success in his ministry. His preaching, says one of the venerable men connected with that church, was much to our satisfaction - he was greatly beloved by al, and we thought him a very promising young man. But happy as were all the circumstances connected with this settlement, he did not feel contented to remain there - wishing to labor in a more destitute part of the vineyard.
Kincaid ended up going to Burma to labor with that well known Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson. According to Cathcart, he was one of five students who formed the first class in Madison University in Hamilton, NY. While there during his second year he determined to become a missionary as a result of sermons by William Carey. He was pastor here in 1822-26. From what was written of him we learn that the church here in Galway was prospering and we see a missions mindedness characteristic of the Baptists of his day.
JOHN HARVEY GREENING - Speaking of missions mindedness the family of Pastor John Harvey Greening needs to be mentioned. This church had a large turnover of pastors from the mid 1800's to the early 1900s. Each pastors tenure was short. Then came the 29 year ministry of John Greening. He labored here in Galway from 1928 to 1957. He was a sixth generation Baptist minister. Originally from England he was a graduate of Spurgeons College.
His first church was in the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada . The second was in Ontario, Canada 50 miles from Toronto. Finally he came to Galway. His children graduated from Galway High. His oldest daughter Ruth went as a missionary to China with the China Inland Mission. During the Japanese occupation of China in WW II, she was placed in a concentration camp where she met a British banker, and after the war married him and went to England to live. The second born, John Edward Greening , followed in his fathers footsteps and became a Baptist pastor and for fifty years served eight churches. He was on the board of the Association of Baptists for World Missions. Then came Tom. The fourth child was a daughter, Margaret who married a Conservative Baptist pastor and the serve out West.
We have been talking about a growing season in the history of this church. The pattern of growth was as follows - in 1789 it was started with 7 members. In 1801 the membership had grown to 129. During the mid 1800s the time this building was erected, membership peaked to over 200. By 1875 it had dropped to 150. By the time of Greening the church was in decline.
The Baptists were not alone. The other churches in Galway experienced decline as well. The Associate Presbyterian Church of Galway joined with the Galway Methodist Episcopal Church in 1939. This merger took place because during the 1930s, both churches gradually began to experience loss of membership and financial difficulties. It seemed that there just wasnt the congregation or money to maintain or pay two pastors.
Just what was the killing frost that brought in a season of winter? In our affluence and technological progress we bought into a lie. Before the Bible was the arbiter of truth. However another rule thought at first not to be in competition usurped the pre-eminence of the Bible. It used to be that theology was the queen of sciences, but now another has taken its place.
Let me explain how subtle the shift was. God is true. His Word is truth. But also all truth is true. God is the God of all truth. Science was done first under the premise that the world was a creation of God and thereby orderly and able to be studied. Once scientific theory, that was asserted to be true seemed to contradict the Bible, the Bible was taken from the status of being a reliable source of truth and relegated to a nice system of ethics and it became increasingly irrelevant.
Evolution was asserted to be true. There was no need for a creator. Origin was explained apart from God. The Bible was looked upon as the product of men. Some seminaries preparing men for the ministry were looking for the historical Jesus, the man beyond the myth. Everything that was going on in religious circles was sorely reminiscent of the serpent in the garden telling Eve Hath God said? It was a direct attack upon the Christian faith.
Some ministers no longer believing in the reliability of the Scriptures began to focus upon the ethics of Jesus and develop a social gospel, but in so doing they are no longer faithful expositors of the Bible. Others developed the idea that the Bible is not actually the Word of God, but it will become the Word of God to you if in reading it something speaks to you meaningfully.
Listen, the trashing of the Bible has resulted in an ever increasing quagmire of immorality, disrespect for authority and human life, and the disintegration of the family. What has happened - people who know that there is a God and they will one day have to give account to God - did not want to retain God in their knowledge and chose to believe a lie rather than the truth.
Are you listening to the political rhetoric - image is everything - truth is relative in politics of our day. Say what you want the truth or a lie if it will serve your cause. People will believe a lie as well as the truth. Dont you see it. If you say something long enough - some people will buy your line. There are answers to the attacks made against the Bible, Jesus, and the Christian faith. They are reasonable answers, common-sense answers, but to a person who has already made up their mind, their prejudice blinds them to the truth.
God has used words as a medium for spreading truth - that is the seed He plants - but the enemy has come in and sown the same seed. What do you do as a Christian when your own church (denomination) disseminates falsehood? Stay in and try to influence it for good, come out and have nothing to do with them, or come out but maintain dialogue to bring about change.
Among Baptists in the North - some stayed in until they could stay no longer - the Conservative Baptists, some came out right away - the General Association of Regular Baptists. This church in the 1960s came out of the American Baptist Convention and aligned itself with the IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America). By so doing we could retain our Baptist identity but affirm the historic Christian faith. This took place under the ministry of Pastor Vern Haskell a Moody Bible College graduate on June 15, 1967. After Vern Haskell the next two pastors had a Bible College education. Pastor Al Horning of Philadelphia College of the Bible, and myself, a graduate of Florida Bible College. It was during Pastor Haskells ministry that the name was changed. The pastor wanted to call it the Galway Bible Church, but that was opposed by a staunch Baptist by the name of Luther Graves who did not want Baptist dropped out of the name. Mrs. Ethel Overbeek suggested a compromise, why dont we call it the Bible Baptist Church of Galway? This was agreed upon by all. The name has caused some confusion over the years, because there is a group of Baptists known as the Bible Baptist Fellowship. Latham Bible Baptist Church and Saratoga Bible Baptist Church belong to this and it is often assumed by our name that we too are part of this fellowship.
The most recent chapter in the history of our church was the recovery of our Calvinistic roots in 1982. I had been reading the story of Robinson Crusoe the classic novel by Defoe which tells of the conversion to Christ by the sole survivor of a ship wreck. The Scripture quoted was highlighted in my mind and I saw it as I never saw it before. Crusoe asks God to give him repentance after reading a passage that says that Christ is exalted to give repentance. This helped me to see how dependent I am upon the grace of God for my salvation. I began to read Baptist history and saw that the Calvinist underpinnings of their theology spurred both missions and revival. I began to see also it was what sustained the ministers of this church up to the Bible College pastors who just did not see it. One pastor before Vern Haskell was Pastor John Humme a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary.
In October 13, 1985 we adopted the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and in 2003 we became a part of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA).
Well here we are at the end of the lecture. We are still in a Winter Season.
In a culture that has for the most part turned its back on God we are not discouraged for tomorrow is in the hands of God. It is His church. He can once again bring about a great ingathering. And when it comes, the surprising work of God - people will no longer run from God, they will run to Him.
It is often when the times look the most disheartening. When the saints long for the glory of past ingathering, it is then that God often chooses to work. The darkest hour is often just before the dawn!